Mourning Dove Studio Blog

Planning Ahead: Natural Burial

Recognizing the importance of natural burial, the National Funeral Directors Association has a?green burial certification program. ? However, the Green Burial Council?is the non-profit organization that sets the standards for natural burial (certifying cemeteries, products and home funeral guides as well as funeral directors) and also provides information for all of us.

The website of the Green Burial Council has more articulate and thorough information than I could possibly cover here, including a?description,?responses to questions responses to questions, and a short?planning guide.

Grave Matters, by Mark Harris, is the book that brought natural burial to the attention of many people.

You can read thorough and interesting descriptions of U.S. natural burial cemeteries in Natural Burial Cemetery Guide, a book by Ann Hoffner, as well as a range of topics in her?blog, such as stories about her visits to cemeteries, delving into relevant science, and reporting on natural burial events.

Hoffner’s post?Ramsey Creek Preserve, America’s First Modern Natural Burial Cemetery?will give you lovely visuals of Ramsey Creek as well as its story.

A half hour documentary named Dying Green is one of my favorite videos introducing natural burial through the story of Ramsey Creek.

Here?s my short overview of natural burial:
There are 3 essential elements of natural burial:
No embalming
No vaults/grave liners
A non-toxic, biodegradable coffin, casket or shroud

A number of people hear these details of natural burial and respond – isn?t this just like the traditional Jewish way of doing burial? YES! It?s the traditional Jewish way of burying someone, and also the way Muslims and a number of other traditions care for their dead. (Two caveats- caskets can have a wood base but still use toxic finishes and adhesives. Vaults/grave liners are sometimes used)

When hearing about natural burial most people tend to respond that it just makes sense. We used to do this here in America, and in fact, most of the world has never stopped using natural burial.

But Green Burial Council statistics tell us that now, here in America, every year we bury:
-more than enough metal to rebuild the Golden Gate Bridge
-enough concrete that we could build a two-lane highway from New York to Detroit
-enough embalming fluid to fill eight Olympic-size swimming pools

We?ve gotten a bit far away from the recognition of the reality of ?ashes to ashes, dust-dust?, haven?t we?

Green burial not only returns us to more of a recognition of the cycle of life and death, a conservation level cemetery also provides a way to preserve land and habitat. ?What a wonderful way to honor those who’ve died and to be able to spend time in beautiful surroundings when visiting them.

No matter what cemetery you intend to use, it?s worthwhile asking if they will do a natural burial. Sometimes cemeteries will, even if they usually do more conventional burial. In addition, asking them lets them know that people care, as does asking crematories if they have emissions filters.


Natural burial is kinder to the earth, and kinder to us emotionally:

-If you?ve tried to be careful about your impact on the environment while you?re alive, it?s in keeping with your values to choose natural burial.

-Even if you don?t have children in the next generation of your family, you can leave a legacy for ALL children by caring for the environment in this way.

-No matter what your financial status, this is something extraordinarily valuable you can leave to future generations.


Like in many areas of the ways we live our lives, we just haven?t known the impact of what we?ve been doing. But now that we know, it?s urgent that we do things differently.



In the next few days:

Review information from the Green Burial Council and write down your choices about this in your planning guide.


Step #2 find and use a PLANNING GUIDE
Step #4 draw upon INSIGHTS from bereavement research
Step #5 Find?RITUALS that resonate with you
Step #6 Consider NATURAL BURIAL choices


Thursday, May 10 – Home funerals

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  1. Very informative and well written. Do you get lots of comments back on your blogs? Just curious. I continue to read your comments and blogs and have learned quite a bit a out natural burials. Appreciate all the information.

    1. Thank you so much, Bob! We know that people are learning about all of these topics from many sources now, which is wonderful.

  2. The lovely photo of the meadow was taken at Carolina Memorial Sanctuary by my husband, Tom Bailey, on a visit he and I took last summer. It has been copied from my blog, is not an unattributed photo and is not for distribution. Thanks.

    1. I’m so sorry, Ann. I drew it from googling images of Carolina Memorial Sanctuary and was not knowledgable or careful enough to pay attention to check in with you. We had already received and paid for the use of the 2 comics that will be used in this series of blogs and would certainly have done the same with your husband’s photograph.

      It’s been removed from this post.

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